Farmers see red over low paprika prices

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FARMERS are losing interest in paprika, opting for other cash crops due to low prices on the market and lack of funding, among other challenges. Several farmers interviewed by The Patriot confirmed that paprika production had gone partly because of poor prices. Since 2003, the production of the crop has continued to dwindle. In that year, Zimbabwe produced about 12 948 tonnes of paprika with 98 percent of the crop finding its way onto the export market. An expert in the horticulture industry who requested anonymity said paprika and tobacco had similar qualities as it was a buyer’s market, where sellers paid a passive role. In some instances, he said, the crop offered handsome rewards depending on demand especially on the international market. “The world market had an effect on the price of paprika and if the price tumbles, the local price follows suit,” he said. “In most instances, farmers were actually left with no choice because of lack of competition among the buyers and most of them had to sell the crop to the contractor.” Zimbabwe was a major producer of paprika along with Spain, Hungary, South Africa, Peru and India. Paprika is mainly used as a spice and colouring in foodstuffs. Farmers said they used to plant the crop under contract but the shift by contractors to other horticultural crops forced them to abandon the ‘red gold’. Paprika farming requires large amounts of working capital as well as intensive disease and pest control, among other things. Felix Murombedzi from Murombedzi said he used to grow the crop on a small scale, but was forced to abandon the crop for other horticultural products out of frustration. He said it was now difficult for farmers to continue with paprika production as some had lost faith in the crop. “The money I realised after selling my produce was not enough to purchase a single bag of fertiliser,” said Murombedzi. “I was really frustrated and I am unlikely to consider farming paprika again.”

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